My daughter sleeps in the passenger seat of my car. My eyes are heavy and there are three more hours left of the drive from her school to home. I leave her favorite podcast on, afraid to disturb her rest.
“Carl Sagan said we’re all made of star stuff, and he was right,” the host strings about a hundred more scientific words together that sound to me as if she is speaking in tongues. I sip on a latte, hoping it will help me stay awake for the rest of the drive. I slept next to my daughter the night before, listening to her take deep breaths to calm her anxiety.
She is twenty years old and she has autism. A few months ago, she lost her father unexpectedly and then decided to attend a brand-new college away from home during a pandemic. When her feelings got too scary for her to handle alone, she reached out for help.
Her sleeping face is now angelic, and there is no evidence of the months of worry that have taken their toll on her self-esteem. No matter how hard she studied, her exam scores came back as failing grades. No matter how many social events she attended, she walked back to her dorm room alone. Finally, after three months of fighting the good fight, she had nothing more left to give. I jumped in the car at midnight as soon as I got the call and drove the four hours to get her while she and Winnie the Pooh waited for me.
She texted me while I was on my way to her. “Are my feelings ever going to subside?” “Are you praying for me?” “Is anyone else praying for me?” I felt the desperation in her words. The miles between a child in need and a parent who needs to rescue them are long and lonely.
Now she is sleeping beside me. Safe for a moment. And I think about Carl Sagan’s theory that a few elements exploded under intense pressure and turned into, well, everything. And because of that, we have the same star stuff inside of us. The idea that the magnificence that formed the universe can be housed in our imperfect bodies controlled by our weak minds can make us feel empowered in difficult times. But sometimes, even star stuff is not enough.
If intense pressure is capable of creating new things, what big bang will be the result of these trials that my sweet daughter is walking through?
We are made of God Stuff, not star stuff.
This brave young woman is not simply made of carbon or helium or whatever elements began it all (I’m sure she’ll tell me which elements because I certainly don’t know). She is made of God Stuff and created in his image. He breathed his spirit into her. And while I cannot for the life of me understand why she is forced to battle through this difficult time, I know for certain that God has a plan for her. I tell her she was made for a divine purpose.
“A divine purpose. Does that mean that God made me to do something special just for him?”
Yes. And nobody else is better suited to do it than you.
You, my dear, are made of God Stuff.
And just like the elements and molecules and whatever other primordial magic were created and exploded into an entire universe that I am not smart enough to comprehend, my daughter was created by the same hands. She too must be compressed, pressurized, refined by fire, tossed by turbulent waters, even crushed…but never broken, in order to fulfill the divine purpose that only she was made for.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.2 Corinthians 4:7-9
I wish I could take this burden away from my daughter. I wish I could promise her that it will all turn out okay. All I can tell her is that I do know how the story ends. I do know who created the star stuff and who put all of that stuff inside of her.
I hand this perfect child over to God, and trust in his perfect plan for her life.
She is magnificent.
She is beautiful.
She is made of God Stuff.